Rosebush Fantasy Technique with Elementary School Students

Article excerpt

The authors present the rosebush fantasy drawing as a technique to use in elementary school counseling. The technique is suggested as an expressive arts method to access the emotional world of children in a non-verbal format. The specifics of presenting the technique and processing the drawing with elementary-aged students are detailed. The authors also present three case studies using the rosebush fantasy drawing.

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In the elementary school, Gysbers and Henderson (2000) suggest that 30% to 40% of the school counselor's time should be engaged in responsive services. The component of responsive services is one of four suggested components in a comprehensive guidance program in school counseling. The remaining three components consist of guidance curriculum, individual planning, and systems support. Responsive services include crisis counseling, individual and small-group counseling, diagnostic and remediation activities, and consultation and referral. The counselor's role is to intervene to alleviate the students' immediate concerns that block academic development (Cobia & Henderson, 2003). As part of this intervention, the counselor needs to distinguish between those students who can be served through school counseling and those requiring counseling from outside professionals. If the school counselor decides that a student is best served by counseling in the school, the counselor must be knowledgeable in theoretical and delivery techniques that are most effective with the student's needs (Cobia & Henderson).

Elementary-aged students respond positively to creative approaches to counseling used by school counselors. Often, traditional talk therapy is not effective with children in pre-operational and/or concrete operations stages of cognitive development (Bradley & Gould, 1999; Newsome, 2003). Children at this level typically do not possess the developmental ability to integrate feelings, thoughts, and experiences. Landreth (2002) recognized that children's feelings are often inaccessible at the verbal level. The developmental level of most elementary students obliges the school counselor to develop alternate non-verbal techniques to access the emotional world of the child.

One therapeutic method for working within the child's emotional world is the use of expressive arts counseling. Expressive arts counseling includes art therapy, play therapy, sandtray therapy, and various other modalities (Bratton & Ferebee, 1999). Different theoretical philosophies advocate the use of such techniques with young children. Allan (1988) proposed the use of art in counseling from the Jungian perspective, explaining that symbol production represents the psyche's attempt to grow and to heal itself. Oaklander (1978), a Gestalt child therapist, recognized that through fantasy, the counselor can have fun with the child and can also find out how the child processes the expression of feelings. Malchiodi (1998) suggested that drawings can quickly bring to the surface issues that are relevant to counseling, which improves the counselor's ability to intervene effectively with children. Specifically, structured art activities in counseling will allow the counselor to understand the experience of the child. Through understanding the world of the child, the school counselor may then formulate counseling goals that are individual to the child, including decisions regarding referrals to outside sources.

Allowing children the opportunity to communicate through drawing can easily be used by any school counselor. The purpose of drawing is to give the child another language with which to share feelings, ideas, perceptions, fantasies, and observations about self, others and the environment. Art allows the child and counselor to connect through images rather than words alone. Variation of communication increases interaction between the counselor and child, thus expanding the effectiveness of the relationship (Malchiodi, 1998). …

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